Narek Sardaryan, an Armenian shepherd, missing for a week, has turned up in Azerbaijan’s exclave of Nakhchivan. In a video message released by Azerbaijani state TV, the shepherd denounces Armenia and requests Azerbaijani citizenship.
Thirty-year-old Sardaryan is a resident of Nerkin Khndzoresk, a village in Armenia’s Syunik province which borders Nakhichevan — an exclave of Azerbaijan.
Sardaryan’s family has claimed that the shepherd had crossed the border into Azerbaijan accidentally on the morning of 8 July.
A local Nakhchivan state-run television station reported that the shepherd had crossed the border on 15 July whereupon he was detained by Azerbaijani border guards.
In the reportage, Sardaryan is shown being questioned by border officers. During the questioning, he states that he wanted to cross the border at an earlier date but did not have an opportunity. He also condemns ‘violence and injustice’ in Armenia as well as unresponsive government officials.
[video of Sardaryan’s questioning. Nakhchivan TV]
‘That is why I crossed the Azerbaijani border’, he says in the video. ‘I want help from Azerbaijan.’
He also praised Azerbaijani border guards, stating that, ‘the soldiers treated me well, and did not open fire’.
Sardaryan also accuses the local authorities of his village of corruption.
‘The village executive wants ֏20,000 ($42) per animal in addition to the land tax’, he said, adding that if he was threatened with arrest if he did not pay bribes.
Sardaryan also spoke about the ‘bad’ condition that the Armenian army is supposedly in.
Sardaryan concluded the interview by apparently requesting citizenship from Azerbaijan.
‘I ask you to give me citizenship here, don’t return me back to Armenia, people there suffer a lot’, he said. ‘If it is impossible, I ask you to deliver me to a third country.’
Missing for a week
Sardaryan has been considered a missing person in Armenia since 8 July.
Sardaryan’s family has stated that on the morning of 8 July, Sardaryan had gone to the pastures near the village of Gorayk but never returned. They have stated that they believe Sardaryan to have crossed the border by accident.
On 14 July, the office of Armenia’s Human Rights Defender announced that it had reported the case to the Delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Armenia.
Before the video of Sardaryan was published by Nakhchivan’s local media, the ICRC Delegation in Armenia had already launched an official investigation into finding Sardaryan’s whereabouts and had sent a request to the ICRC Delegation in Azerbaijan.